I’ve been plotting on saying this for a while. As we’ve passed the two-year mark since Big Sean released Dark Sky Paradise in February of 2015, enough time has transpired to objectively look at the Detroit native’s third studio album as a modern classic in rap.
Sean knew he had to perform, as his social status and impact was larger than ever. The 26-year-old saw his name with the likes of his contemporaries such as Wale, J Cole, and Kendrick who blemished his last album Hall Of Fame, with his controversial and viral verse on “Control,” which dominated headlines leading to the song being taken off of the project for “sampling” reasons.
Anderson took it upon himself to produce the best product with no label heads in his ear. This was to be executed through Sean’s vision playing the role of artist and A&R. To maximize creativity, the G.O.O.D Music artist built a state-of-the-art studio inside his Detroit mansion, where he handpicked the beats organically that filled inspirational voids that would develop into reference tracks.
Sean Don orchestrated his masterpiece enlisting an ensemble of superstar collaborators from some of the top artists and producers in the game today. This list is seriously crazy: Kanye West (executive producer), Drake, E-40, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, Chris Brown, Jhene Aiko, Lil Wayne, John Legend, PartyNextDoor, Ariana Grande. On the production side: Mike WiLL Made-It, Boi-1da, Mike Dean, Key Wane, DJ Mustard, DJ Dahi, Vinylz and more.
This list of features and genius minds having their hand in a project is eerily reminiscent of Kanye West’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as you can see the similar title even setting off the energy in Dark Sky Paradise. In an interview with Hot97 Big Sean admitted to listening to Dark Twisted Fantasy and using it as inspiration in his own project, “Before I made any songs for this album I was with ‘Ye and we played Dark Twisted Fantasy. It’s not that the title had anything to do with it, but soon as I heard that I knew that was the feeling I wanted to go for. Not necessarily the feeling but the vibe of being a little darker than the usual me and that definitely sparked the idea that I’m going to go in.”
Sean definitely climbed out of a creative hole after the nasty break-up with Naya Rivera and the recent passing of his grandma on December 20th, 2014 whom he was very close with and was one of the first female black captains in WWII. Track 11, “One Man Can Change The World” was made in her honor as the Detroit native called on John Legend and Kanye for the assist on the tuneful piano-laden song.
Before the February 2015 release the Roc Nation artist rolled out three singles, two which will be culture flaring bangers for the rest of the decade. “I Don’t Fuck With You” was actually supposed to be a Justin Bieber song, but DJ Mustard decided to give it to Big Sean who then got Bay area legend E-40 to complete the track and roll the tune out on September 19th, 2014. The anthem caught on with mainstream radio, peaking at number 11 on Billboard Hot 100 charts and currently boasts a cool 233 million views on YouTube.
The Kanye West and Drizzy assisted “Blessings” followed up as the final single prior to the release of the project, and Sean went toe-to-toe with his hip-hop Hall-of-Fame compadres. The collaboration king did it again, setting hype for the project at an all-time high for him personally on the Vinylz produced record. Somehow Yeezy was cut off the album version of the track but still made an appearance for the video, which has 202 million YouTube hits and is certified double platinum by the RIAA.
In the Hot 97 listening session/interview referenced above Sean admitted he recorded the 2088 (group name for Big Sean and Jhene) “I Know”, “IDFWY” and “Deep” which calls on Lil Wayne all in the same studio session. That bugs me out that artists can record multiple huge records in the same night. “Deep” definitely has a special meaning to Sean as Weezy big ups him on the track rapping, “I feel like Sean don’t get enough shine. Is it because he ain’t got the tattoos? He ain’t throwing up signs? Well, let me throw up mine.” The 29-year-old actually posted a photo together with Wayne this week to Instagram showing his appreciation for Wayne captioned, “Man I’ll never forget what u said bout me on my song “Deep” bro on some real shit. U changed rap 4ever, God bless you! #C5″
Fast forward to the night before the album drops, Sean gifts the fans with his own cover of Beyonce’s “Me, Myself and I” and this had me wide-eyed with the bars he was spitting on a night where he should be celebrating or resting after being in three cities within 24 hours. The grind doesn’t stop. Please listen to this track, and I’m including it as a bonus track on the project, whether you like it or not.
Even though Dark Sky Paradise leaked days in advance of release, which I admittedly listened to, Anderson notched his first number one album, while racking up a combined 173,000 sales in the first week. The 50-minute project has since gone platinum, and is still my favorite work of his to date.
All I ask if you listen to the 15-track album one more time through and come back to me. I hear the argument that it’s tough to call something a classic with as many features as Sean employed but the quality of music doesn’t lie, in addition to aging very well two years since the February 24th, 2015 release day.
Big Sean doesn’t get the credit he deserves, with every passing year his rapping ability improves in addition to his tricky word play and ad-libs. Sean’s decorated discography can go against almost any other modern hip-hop artist’s first four albums.
What inspired me even more to pen this article was the end of the year lists for 2015 from outlets like SPIN and Stereogum, as they somehow disrespectfully ranked Dark Sky Paradise #35 and #37 for albums of the year. Blasphemy.
Dark Sky Paradise joins 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Good Kid Maad City, Yeezus and To Pimp A Butterfly on my classic list within the last 4 years.
Did I lose you?
— Michael $ap (@LordTreeSap) February 25, 2015